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Irregular heartbeat may be normal.

Irregular Heartbeat May Be Normal

A healthy heart must beat somewhat chaotically, a Harvard Medical School researcher recently told the professionals attending a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"We should not judge a healthy heart by a perfectly predictable pattern," said Dr. Ary Goldberger, an assistant professor at Harvard, and co-director of Heart Research Laboratories at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. "Other organs and physiological systems, including the brain, nervous system, and endocrine system, may also be governed partly by the need for chaos," he declared.

In their study, Goldberger and associates measured the time intervals between the beats of a healthy heart and a diseased one. They found that the intervals between the beats of a healthy heart constantly vary by small amounts and that the variations are completely unpredictable.

But in a study of thirty dying patients, they found that a few hours before death, the intervals between beats tended to become practically identical. The electrical signals emitted by the heart also tended to lose some of their natural variation and become predictably cyclic," he added. "The healthy heart dances," Goldberger noted, "while the dying heart can merely march."

With the popularization of the notion that aspirin's ability to ward off heart attacks is scientifically proven (it is not), many individuals are resorting to daily doses of the drug. Because of its blood-thinning effects, in many cases "skipped heart beats" and palpitations have intensified. The frightened patient then implores the doctor to prescribe something to correct that condition and a round-robin of medications ensues.

Dr. Goldberger's observations about the healthy heart's variations may contribute important information to a confused and susceptible public and a few uncertain professionals.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Sep 22, 1989
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